LOWER THE HAY

EQUUS - - Hands On -

Hay racks and nets can help keep a stall floor tidy and re­duce waste, but they can con­trib­ute to a few health prob­lems.

For one thing, feed­ing hay from el­e­vated hold­ers in­creases a horse’s risk of eye ir­ri­ta­tion. As horses pull mouth­fuls of hay from the rack, they stir up dust and de­bris, right at the level of their eyes. This can lead to scratched corneas0 and con­junc­tivi­tis0. Eat­ing with a raised head also lim­its the nat­u­ral drainage of a horse’s air­way, which can con­trib­ute to res­pi­ra­tory con­di­tions such as heaves. Wet­ting hay fed from a net or rack can re­duce both of these risks, but you’ll need to make sure it’s eaten be­fore it dries.

Feed­ing hay from the stall floor is the sim­plest way to avoid these prob­lems but that’s not al­ways fea­si­ble. And sim­ply hang­ing racks and nets lower isn’t ad­vis­able be­cause of the po­ten­tial for en­tan­gle­ment and in­jury. With some cre­ativ­ity, how­ever, you can come up with a work­able solution. Con­sider an­chor­ing a large, sturdy plas­tic trash can or muck bucket in one cor­ner of the stall with bal­ing twine. You can fill it with hay to con­tain the mess, but still al­low a more nat­u­ral “heads down” feed­ing po­si­tion. You’ll need to be vig­i­lant about check­ing the can daily for ma­nure con­tam­i­na­tion and wildlife and also clean it reg­u­larly.

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